In 2007, Japan may be blessed with the lowest number of traffic-accident deaths in 54 years. In the first half of this year, 2,655 traffic deaths took place, a decrease of about 9 percent from the year before and the lowest figure on record since 1954. Through 2006, the number of annual deaths in traffic accidents has declined for six straight years. The number of traffic fatalities last year — 6,352 — fell to between 6,000 and 6,500 for the first time since 1955.

The downtrend has stirred expectations that the number of traffic fatalities this year will slip below 6,000 for the first time since 1953. Traffic accidents and people injured in such accidents in the first half this year decreased by 6.1 percent to 404,639, and by 5.8 percent to 501,396, respectively.

A tragic accident in Fukuoka in August 2007 led to a strengthening of measures against drunk driving. Three children died when the vehicle they were traveling in was rear-ended by a drunk driver and plunged off a bridge into Hakata Bay.

Under the new measures, punishments for drunk drivers have become more severe and those who offer alcohol to drivers and those who ride in a car driven by a drunk driver also face punishment. The government should make use of public-relations programs to make people aware of these measures. It should also promote the development and use of cars equipped with breath-alcohol ignition interlocks. These devices, which require the driver to blow into tube before starting the vehicle, will prevent the engine from operating if blood alcohol rises above a certain level.

Parents must also do their part by obeying a law mandating the use of child seats in vehicles for children under the age of 6. Young children are 10 times more likely to survive an accident when restrained in such a manner.

Another safety issue of considerable concern is bicyclists who ride on sidewalks, placing pedestrians in danger. If they ride on roads, however, they risk getting hit by motor vehicles. Japan needs to start building dedicated bicycle lanes to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists alike.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.